The king salmon run into Puget Sound still remains a no show, but many are still hopeful that the outstanding fishing at Sekiu is a sign of things to come.
In the first 12 days of the Sekiu sport fishery about 3,000 kings have been caught.
“The tribes knocked the living daylights out of them there, and now the sport fishery is doing good [at Sekiu area],” said Steve Thiesfeld, a state Fish and Wildlife recreational salmon manager. “I suspect at some point they will push into Areas 9 and 10 [central and northern Puget Sound].”
One known factor is that these hatchery kings being caught at Sekiu are either headed to the south for the Columbia River or coming into Puget Sound.
“When I look back the peak of the run usually peaks in the third week of July to the third week of August,” Thiesfeld said. “I don’t look at this as an abnormal year and you have to look at the whole spectrum.”
Thiesfeld said the neat thing this summer is that the recreational sector can choose from a wide variety of places to go salmon fishing.
“They are not forced to stay in one area, and if you can be mobile you have some pretty good success,” Thiesfeld said.
Enforcement officers at Sekiu have noticed many angers are confusing smaller-sized chinook for pink salmon. Anglers are advised to check the regulation for the differences between the two species.
While anglers are waxing fish left and right in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, locally in the sound it remains slow.
“It seems the kings are hard to come by right now,” said Mark Baltzell, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. “I know the [catch per unit effort] by anglers in Areas 9 and 10 was 0.1 fish per rod.”
The state Fish and Wildlife test fishing boats are doing OK, Baltzell pointed out.
“They caught six or eight fish last week, and the Area 10 test boat didn’t do as well as the Area 9 boat. The mark rate [hatchery chinook with a missing adipose fin] is in the 70 to 80 percent range.”
Baltzell says Area 11 [south central Puget Sound] catches have been abysmal with 76 chinook caught for 1,400 anglers this past week, although mark rates remain high.
The inner Elliott Bay king salmon fishery has been fair at best for sport anglers, but the first two tribal test fisheries were very poor.
“The one area of concern is the Green River chinook returns,” Thiesfeld said. “The first two [tribal] test fisheries didn’t go well, and they go in tonight so we’ll see how they do.”
“This is a dilemma for us because we need to know if the run is late or is it early,” Thiesfeld said. “Our ultimate responsibility is for the fish. So do we fish or not? I still want to see if those fish up at Sekiu push into the sound in the next week.”